From the Pastor's Desk
Extravagant Love for Jesus
Extravagant. That is usually a word we use with a negative
connotation or to refer to the rich and famous and how they live. For the most part, extravagance has a
connotation of waste and excess. Celebrities
can be extravagant because they are used to getting the best of the best. They have plenty of money to pretty much buy
whatever it is that they really want.
But even in the world of high paid movie stars and professional
athletes, there have been a few gifts given that help define for us the very
meaning of extravagant.
instance, in 2011, Nick Cannon gave Mariah
Carey a $400,000 Rolls Royce. That
might not be expensive for a Rolls Royce and no doubt she has plenty of other
cars to drive, if she does any driving herself at all. But that's still pretty extravagant. For Christmas 2012, Angelina Jolie bought Brad Pitt a waterfall in
California. I don't even know how one
would go about doing that, and I don't know what else to say about it. Finally, in 2015, professional boxer Floyd Mayweather received a young tiger
as a gift from his employees. Who would
even think to do such a thing?
extravagance isn't always a bad thing. This
morning as we continue on with our series of sermons on the gospel of John,
we're going to see where Jesus received an extravagant gift, and it was totally
appropriate and reasonable. We're also
going to see where we need to do what we can to be extravagant in our love for
had been spending considerable time in the capital city of Jerusalem. He had celebrated a couple of festivals there
and was busy preaching the word and ministering to people with needs. As good as all of that is, what He did
created conflict with the Jewish religious authorities. They didn't like what He was doing and they
didn't like people following Him. So
they actually tried to seize Him to kill Him, but it wasn't time quite yet for
that to happen.
the final blow came when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. After doing that, many more people believed
in Him and started following Him. That
led the Jewish ruling council to decide to take active measures to put Jesus to
death. Once that was decided, Jesus went
to the wilderness until it was time for Him to make His final return to the
we're going to be reading John
12:1-11. We see here where Jesus
is done spending time in the wilderness and is working His way back for His
final return to Jerusalem. On His way
there, He makes a stop in Bethany and
visits Lazarus, Mary and Martha. This visit took place only six days before
the Passover celebration began. People
were eagerly anticipating His appearance in Jerusalem.
a human perspective, Jesus seemed to be in danger. But He was safe because He was doing God's
will and protected by the Father. I
think that there's something we can learn from that. For us there is a time for
self-preservation. We need to defend
ourselves when we're threatened. We need
to try to take care of ourselves in terms of our health and our physical
existence. It might be wise not to take
any unnecessary risks or do anything overly foolish that might put ourselves or
our loved ones in danger.
the other hand, there is also a time to risk our lives if necessary for the
sake of the gospel and for the sake of the kingdom of God. We can't back off preaching and teaching the
truth of God's Word just because we might be persecuted for it. We can't water down God's truth, or back off
from service or ministry just because it might offend other people. Taking risks that God wants us to take as
part of our walk of obedience with Him, is the way we should be living.
Jesus is in Bethany at the home of His close friends, they throw a dinner party for Him. The guests were reclining at the table like
they always did back then. They would be
lying on the floor propped up on their left elbow, with their face towards the
table and their feet away from it. Most
tables were low to the ground and shaped like a "U." That would have made it easy for Mary to do
what she did.
Mary does here is to provide a great example of showing extravagant love to
Jesus. We are told that she took a pound of fragrant oil, expensive nard
and anointed Jesus' feet with it and then wiped His feet with her hair.
act was very generous. I think we're safe in assuming that she gave
absolutely all that she had, the very best and most expensive item that she
owned and used it in a lavish expression of love for her Lord. Those who truly love Jesus give Him the very
best that they have.
pound of ointment would have cost about 300 denarii, or about a year's worth of wages for an average
worker. It's possible that it was
something that had been in Mary's family for quite some time. They might have only used it in small
portions as a perfume on special occasions.
she poured the ointment on His feet, she then wiped His feet with her
hair. That again is an act that helps
explain the great depth of her devotion to Christ. A woman's hair was regarded as her
glory. She would have had to let her
hair down first, which was strictly forbidden by Jewish law. A woman never did that in public. But she didn't care; she needed to do it for
Mary did was also personal. This was apparently a rather wealthy family
and if that is the case, she could have had a servant do this for her. There were potentially other ways for her to
express her love for Jesus. But instead
of doing that, she made it personal.
Having someone else do it wouldn't have been as noble of a gesture. She loved Jesus and she wanted to do
something herself to show that love to Him.
act of Mary's was an act of faith. Anointing Him shows the depth of her faith in
Jesus. Her anointing Him expressed how
much she believed that He was the Messiah; that He was God in the flesh; her
Lord and Savior. God's anointed should
be our anointed. We need to pour on Him
our best affections, above and before all else.
would think that everyone who is at this dinner party is in tune with Jesus and
who He is and what He's doing, especially the disciples. Not so fast my friend. Not everyone who was there that day
appreciated what Mary did. We shouldn't
be surprised to find that Judas, one
of Christ's own 12 hand-picked disciples, objected to this display of
objected but then tried at least to cover his true intentions and motives with
a pious religious sounding reason. Let's
paraphrase. Judas said, "This is
a waste. This is a lot of money
going down the drain. It could have been
used to help the poor." He even
asks, "Why was this money not given to the poor?" That question actually has an easy
answer. It was better bestowed on the
Lord Jesus Christ.
then gives us further insight into why Judas was actually protesting Mary's act
of devotion for Jesus. He was a thief. He coveted the money he thought she was
wasting. Judas was the group's treasurer
and would keep the money for them. Jesus
and His disciples had very little in terms of material or financial
resources. They had no land; they had no
merchandise; they had no place to stay.
They only had what was probably a box or coffer. They received whatever money they did have
from contributions of good people they knew.
They would keep that in the box to cover their subsistence and then
whatever was left over they would give to the poor.
though the group entrusted him with the money, Judas would steal from Jesus and
the disciples. That thought should shock
us. But before we get too indignant and
self-righteous and holier-than-thou, we need to look to our own hearts. Ask yourself this: Are you stealing from the Lord? No, of course, not we would all answer indignantly.
if you're not tithing according to the way God wants you to tithe, then you are
literally and directly stealing from God.
Malachi 3:8-10. We all have good reasons not to give. Too many bills; I can't afford to; we're
saving for a trip; trying to get the kids through college; blah, blah,
blah. Stop stealing from God and start
giving like He wants you to give. No
matter how good your excuses might sound to you, it's still a sin to rob God.
calls Judas a thief and that could refer to a number of different things. He may have been literally guilty of taking
money right out of the box for his own personal use. Maybe he was at the moment planning on taking
some of the money but hadn't done it yet.
It's also possible that being referred to as a thief simply meant he
loved money and was guilty of coveting, which is the same and just as bad as
actual, literal thievery.
think about the implications of that for just a moment. The worst of men can lurk in the heart of the
most noble professions. Many people act
and talk like they love Jesus and are a true follower, yet they really don't
care anything for Him at all. It's even
possible to have people right here in our own fellowship who are just going
through the motions and paying Christ lip-service, but who truly don't know the
Lord. Even teachers, preachers, deacons
and pastors can serve in those positions without being truly born again.
bother trying to figure out who it might be in our church. Don't be trying to casually look around the
room to see if you can figure out who it might be that's here and acting the
part but not truly of the Lord. From all
outward appearances they are OK. Only
God knows the true condition of the human heart; only God can properly judge the
soul and where one truly is at spiritually.
comes to Mary's defense in light of Judas' attack on her actions. In the Holman it reads that Jesus said,
"Leave her alone. ' Jesus
will never stop or rebuke anyone who sincerely desires to please Him. Even if others would not do the same as Mary,
Jesus at least tells them to allow her to do it.
don't all worship or respond or serve Jesus in exactly the same way. Take our worship for example. Some people like to sing and they sing out
loud. Others are more quiet and
sometimes really don't even sing out loud at all. There are some who like to clap or raise
their hands, others are much more reserved in their public worship. As long as we are doing everything in a godly
manner according to biblical principles, then we need to be OK with different
people engaging the Lord differently. If
someone is different than you, and is not unbiblical in their approach, leave
reveals here and alludes to His impending and upcoming death. He states that Mary did this for the day of
His burial. We could paraphrase it this
way: "You do not begrudge the
ointment used for the embalming of your dead friends, nor say that it should be
sold and given to the poor. The day of
my death is now at hand and she has anointed a body that is already as good as
possible that Mary had originally purchased this expensive perfume to be used
in laying out His body for burial. Now,
instead, she was using it to express her devotion to Him while He was still
alive. He saw it as a symbolic embalming
of His body for burial. There would be
no shortage of opportunity for them to do good to the poor. The time for expression of devotion however,
was growing short.
Jesus being in Bethany and Bethany being so close to Jerusalem, crowds were
starting to form. People were coming to see Jesus and they were also
coming to see Lazarus. Maybe they were even coming to see the two of
them together. It's possible some in the
crowd came to confirm their faith in Christ.
Maybe others were looking to hear the story of the resurrection from
Lazarus himself. No doubt, there were
plenty in the crowd who just wanted to satisfy their curiosity in a man who had
died and was now living. It could be
that some wanted to ask Lazarus some questions about what it was like to be
all fed into the growing agitation and frustration of the Jewish religious
leaders. They were becoming more and
more desperate to get rid of Jesus and stop His influence. They had put the word out that anyone who
knew where He was needed to report that to the authorities or risk being thrown
out of the temple. But no one apparently
was helping them.
the crowds continued to grow around Jesus the Jews made another important
decision. They would kill Lazarus as well as Jesus. Since Lazarus was the one who was
resurrected, he was part of this problem as well. Since he was part of the problem, he would
need to die.
see here where all three members of this family who were friends to Jesus had
important parts to play. Martha was all about work. She was a server and that's how she was
gifted and that is what she did best.
Lazarus was witness. As we said, there are no recorded words of
Lazarus anywhere in Scripture. But he
was still a witness to who Jesus is and to what Jesus can do. He's still a witness for us today, all these
many years later.
Mary was all about worship. She took extraordinary measures in this story
to show her amazing and extravagant love for Jesus. She spared no expense and knew that showering
Christ with love was and is the most important thing that we can do in life.
Christian life should be extravagant.
Not in the way many TV preachers want us to think that we should have
the biggest, best and most expensive of everything. That is not of God. But we should be extravagant in how we live
for the Lord and in how we love the Lord.
The Christian life ought to be a beautiful balance of these three
attributes we see in Lazarus, Martha and Mary.
should examine our own hearts and homes to ask whether we are bringing joy to
His heart by our worship, work and witness.
Are you an extravagant witness
for the Lord? Acts 1:8; Matt. 28:19.
We have been commissioned by God to be His witnesses. Wherever we go and whatever we do needs to be
focused on being a good witness for Jesus.
That involves living a life that glorifies Him and being a verbal
witness to others about what Christ has done for us. Go and make disciples.
is the essence of what our lives should be about. We don't have to be in full time ministry or
service to be used by God to make disciples.
Everyone and anyone can do that.
We just need to be determined to be used by Him that way and obey Him
every step of our lives. Be extravagant
in your witness for the Lord Jesus Christ.
about work? Is your work extravagant for the Lord? Phil.
2:12-13. We are told here to
work out our salvation with fear and trembling.
That doesn't mean we can earn our salvation through good works. It is clear in Scripture that salvation is
not earned that way. But once we are
saved, we are to show that we belong to Christ by the way we live and by the
things we do. Verse 13 helps explain it
further. We can do good things; we can
perform good works, because it is Christ who is working in us and through us.
work is God calling you to do? What do
you need to continue doing that you're already involved with? What new area of service do you need to start
getting involved with? How can you obey
Christ today in a way that will make a difference in our community or that will
make a difference in someone's life? Be
extravagant in your work for the Lord.
Are you an extravagant worshiper? Worship is what it's all about because God is
a great God who is worthy of our worship and our praise. 1 Chron.
16:29; John 4:24. We come before
God and worship Him because He deserves it just because He is God. He is awesome. We are exhorted here in 1 Chronicles to
worship the Lord in the splendor of His holiness. Our worship should be done in spirit and in
truth. God and who He is and His truth
as revealed to us in His Word are the basis for our worship.
should worship Him when we rise up and when we lie down. We should worship Him at work and at
play. We should worship Him with our
family and with our friends. We should
worship God when we're by ourselves and when we are with others here at
church. Anytime and all times are good
times for us to worship God. Is your
our singers and musicians come now, we invite you to live extravagantly for the
Lord. What we mean by that is that we
need to show extravagant love for God and for Jesus all of the time. If there are any public professions that you
need to make this morning we invite you to do that now as we stand and sing.